The Fittest on Earth

July 27, 2015

Hilary Achauer and Andréa Maria Cecil

Ben Smith wins the crown in his seventh trip to the CrossFit Games. Davidsdottir tops among women.

Ben Smith wins the crown in his seventh trip to the CrossFit Games. Davidsdottir tops among women.


Seventh time’s the charm.

After seven consecutive CrossFit Games appearances, 25-year-old Ben Smith is the champion. 

Smith started CrossFit at age 16 and competed in his first CrossFit Games in 2009 at 19. It wasn’t until the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games that Smith could legally hoist a beer, which he might have done to celebrate his third-place finish. He was also third in 2013.

On the women’s side, the victory went to Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, the second Icelandic woman to take first, after Annie Thorisdottir’s back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012. This is Davidsdottir’s third Games appearance, and she shares the podium with two rookies: Tia-Clair Toomey and Sara Sigmundsdottir. 

Big Ben Rings True

“Something was different,” Smith said about this year’s Games. “I could feel it.”

Smith said his previous six Games appearances played an important role in preparing him for the win. 

“I was mentally ready. I felt mentally prepared,” he said.

Leading up to the Games, many had Mathew Fraser, last year’s second-place finisher, picked as the winner. 

“You just gotta know you can do it,” Smith said about handling the speculation and pressure that swirls before the Games. 

Much has been made of Rich Froning Jr.’s and Jason Khalipa’s retirement from individual competition, but Smith was prepared to take on all comers in Carson.

“You just have to see who shows up on game day,” Smith said when CrossFit Media Director Sevan Matossian asked him what it meant to win in a year without the four-time champion and the 2008 king. 

Smith achieved victory with consistent finishes. After taking 34th in Sandbag 2015, Smith didn’t finish lower than 11th for the rest of the competition. His first-place finishes in Heavy DT and Soccer Chipper and second-place finishes in Snatch Speed Ladder and Clean and Jerk were key.

Smith’s victory was not easy, however. To win, he had to hold off a determined Fraser. 

"He's one of the most consistent guys out here," Fraser said about Smith. 

Before the final events were announced, Smith said he was looking forward to whatever Castro had planned. 

“I always look forward to the last workout,” Smith said “Hopefully it’s really tough.”

He got his wish. The event started with pegboard ascents—a challenge new to the CrossFit Games but mentioned by CrossFit Founder and CEO Greg Glassman way back in 2002 in the CrossFit Journal article “The Garage Gym.” 

Going into Pedal to the Metal 1, Björgvin Karl Guðmundsson's biggest concern was ascending the pegboard. Guðmundsson took seventh on the event and came in third overall. 

After Dave Castro announced the event, Guðmundsson said he "watched YouTube videos" to learn proper technique.

In Pedal to the Metal 2, he said he knew he had to beat Cole Sager, who entered the day in third overall.

“My eyes were on him the whole time,” Guðmundsson said. 

When the athletes entered the tennis stadium for Pedal to the Metal 1 and 2, Smith was only 8 points ahead of Fraser. Fraser took second on Part 1, with Smith taking fourth. The effort put Fraser on top of the standings, but it appeared as if the cost was too great for Fraser, who struggled on the deficit handstand push-ups on Part 2.

Smith pulled ahead of the pack early in the final event but initially struggled with the heavy kettlebell deadlifts, failing reps and dropping the huge bells. Spencer Hendel and Dan Bailey passed Smith, walking their kettlebells down the competition floor, but Smith only needed to stay ahead of one man: Fraser.

Just when it looked as if Fraser might catch up, Smith picked up speed, completed his last few deadlifts and stumbled to the finish line in fourth to seal the deal.

“Just push through,” he said of his thoughts in those last few moments. Earlier on Sunday, Smith said his goal for the day was to “go out and finish strong.” 

He did exactly that. 

Redemption for ’Dottir

Davidsdottir took first place on only one event—Pedal to the Metal 2—but she won when it counted, moving ahead of Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdottir, who was in first going into the last two events. 

Although she didn’t accumulate many wins, Davidsdottir never finished below 21st place and was able to stay calm and focused throughout the four-day competition.

Davidsdottir and Sigmundsdottir traded off first place during the competition, and Davidsdottir came into the day 33 points back of first. She made her move in Midline Madness on Sunday, finishing fifth. More importantly, she finished ahead of Sigmundsdottir, who placed ninth. The effort was essential for her overall victory, but it cost Davidsdottir. She left the field supported by two medics. When asked if she was hurt, she smiled widely and said, “No, I just pushed hard.”

She said her strategy was to “not blow up or go too fast.” 

She said she was trying to catch Samantha Briggs, who won the event. 

“I held on for as long as I could,” Davidsdottir said. “Three of us were sprinting (at the end),” she said. 

When she woke up Sunday morning, Davidsdottir said she was sore.

“But, of course, we all are,” she said. “We are all in the same boat.”

“Once you get warmed up, you don’t feel it,” she said. “It’s just go time.”  

Davidsdottir said she loves the surprise events. It doesn’t bother her not to know what’s ahead. “Not knowing helps,” she said, because she can’t worry about the event in advance. 

“My goal this weekend was to stay focused on myself,” Davidsdottir said. When asked if she was able to accomplish that, she said she had. 

Davidsdottir’s win comes after she missed the Games in 2014 after a poor performance on legless rope climbs in the Europe Regional.

The surprise finish of the weekend was that of Tia-Clair Toomey, who took second overall. When the Australian walked off the tennis-stadium floor and through the tunnel after the final event, she took a seat next to Emily Abbott on a large, green-wheeled cart used to move heavy equipment.

As Toomey sat, a Reebok representative approached her.

"Do you know what you got?" he asked her.

"What?" Toomey asked blankly.

"Second," he exclaimed.

Toomey burst into tears and buried her head in the blue tank top she had removed earlier.

"Why are you crying?" asked Lindsey Valenzuela, who sat down in front of her, smiling. "You should be so proud of yourself." 

The advice didn't seem to help. Toomey continued crying into her shirt.

"I just didn't want to come last," she said, smiling through tears.

As Davidsdottir made her way off the stadium floor and through the tunnel, she was greeted by a crowd of athletes who took turns hugging her. She had a particularly long embrace with two-time Games champion Thorisdottir while holding Iceland’s flag on a wooden stick in her right hand.

Davidsdottir took a deep breath before trying on the white and gold T-shirt that denotes first place, and she walked back through the tunnel toward the floor for the awards ceremony with a look of disbelief.

"When I'm on the floor, I just want to focus on myself. ... I gave the very best that I had."

Always a Champion

In the Team competition, four-time CrossFit Games champion Rich Froning Jr. proved you can take the man out of individual competition, but you can't take away his podium.

In his first year of participating in the team competition, Froning led CrossFit Mayhem Freedom to a win in the Affiliate Cup. He was joined by Elly Kabboord, Kristin Reffett, Lauren Neal, James Hobart and Matt Hewett.

Toomey was named Rookie of the Year and Margaux Alvarez was named Most Improved. The Spirit of the Games award went to perennial competitor Bailey.

For complete standings and scores from all divisions, visit the Leaderboard.